Saturday, February 19, 2005


We went to Disneyworld last month. I was sitting on the wall outside the Magic Kingdom waiting for Mickey and his friends to do their show and open the park. Sitting next to me was a bright dark-haired little boy who was looking at the map of the park and excitedly telling his mom all the things they had to see. I smiled at her as he told everyone in earshot about how his map told him where all the bathrooms were in case she had to use them. Then he surprised her by telling her something about an attraction she hadn't expected to hear.

"Who told you that?" she asked.
"Nobody. I focused" the little genius replied.
She laughed. "They're teaching 5 year-olds to focus now".

I could just imagine his kindergarten teacher telling her class to focus so they could answer her questions. And of course our young friend is absolutely right. To achieve anything worthwhile you have to focus. Meaning to concentrate on doing one thing really well and avoiding distractions. Ellen MacArthur has just broken the world record for sailing solo non-stop around the world. Her whole sailing career is one of single-minded laser-like focus to become the best ocean racer she can be. I'm sure I would be a better sailor if I only focused more. Focused on practicing and getting fit. Focused during races on the important stuff like what the wind and current are doing.

Easy to say. Much much harder to do. But if a 5-year-old can focus, there's hope for the rest of us.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Where do flies go in the winter?

When I woke up this morning the lake was frozen and dusted with wind-blown snow. Fairly typical for New Jersey in February. Around here almost every lake in the region is populated with sailboats in the summer months. But in the winter the lakes freeze and the sailors disapppear. Where do they go? What do they do?

The majority of sailors, I suspect, take the view that sailing is a summer sport and they find something else to do in the winter. Skiing. Watching college football. Cheering the New Jersey Devils - oh sorry hockey fans - I forgot - not this year. Tidying up the basement. Yawn.

A more obsessive minority can't stop thinking about sailing in the winter. They plan their next season's sailing. They go to boat shows in cavernous convention halls. They dream about summer breezes. They go to meetings to plan yacht club programs and they debate minutiae until they are sick of each other. I know. I've been to some of those meetings. They spend hours discussing scoring systems and racing rules and other abstractions. I've even fallen into this trap myself. Guilty as charged.

But the real lunatic fringe keep sailing. They drive to yacht clubs in Connecticut or Long Island or on the Jersey Shore to race in frostbite programs. They disappear to Florida for midwinter regattas. Or they spend all week exchanging emails with fellow fanatics about which local lake might actually have some liquid water this weekend. Then they converge on the lucky lake hauling their boats on trailers and sail between the ice floes until their hands are numb and their decks are covered in ice. Nuts.

I'm one of the lunatic fringe. Last weekend my friend S. and I sailed our Lasers on Round Valley Reservoir. There were huge gusts scooting across the lake whipping up whitecaps. On the dam the warning light was flashing intermittently. This is supposed to indicate that the wind is over 20 knots and all boating must cease, but we didn't believe it. Over 2000 acres and 55 billion gallons of icy water and 2 small sailboats planing back and forth in the middle. No sight of another human being. It felt quite isolated, wild, remote. And then it started to snow. Magic!

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Opening Lines

"Call me Ishmael..... " No - that won't do. Been used before.

"When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods...." Also been done before. Even if half true.

How is one supposed to start a blog? This is a new experience for me. And there appears to be no standard etiquette on the matter.

Some new bloggers start with a personal introduction. But I'm not sure yet whether this blog is going to be anonymous or not. There seem to be shades of grey of anonymity in the blogosphere. Some people seem to start off anonymously but as the blog builds and describes more and more details of personal or professional life, the people who know the blogger must start to guess his or her identity. I suspect this blog will be like that. So no real introduction here. The blog will be a reflection of my identity which may or not become a totally clear image as the months progress.

And what will the subject be? That's easy. Sailing is my passion and I have felt driven for some time to write about it. This medium seems to be the perfect one for sharing the random thoughts about sailing that roll around my head and touch on almost every aspect of the sport. But should it be exclusively about sailing? Or one of those more wide-ranging blogs covering many aspects of an individual's life. Focus or variety. We will see.....

So the blog will be a voyage with an unknown destination and no charts. An exploration that will take us where the winds and currents take us. Let's haul up the anchor and set sail.

We're on our way.......